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AAMFT Restructure Vote Results Are In

Dear Connecticut Membership;

The results are in from AAMFT’s recent call for partial by-law changes that would include eliminating the state divisions.

The vote DID NOT PASS. This means the vote to eliminate the state divisions did not pass. The result percentages per state were published, and in CT, we were very close to 50% in favor of keeping the CT division intact; while 50% voted for elimination of divisions. Many of the other states were either slightly or significantly in favor of the change, and a few states were strongly opposed. We do not know the total number of voters per state, so we do not yet know what percentage of the CT membership that voted. We do know that AAMFT needed a 2/3 vote (66.6%) to pass and only received 61%.

What does this mean for us here in CT? For now, it means that nothing changes in terms of how your dues are distributed, including day-to-day operations of the Connecticut division. We do anticipate that AAMFT will have a backup plan, which we expect to hear more about at this year’s national conference in Austin, Texas next week, September 3-6, 2015. I am pleased to represent you, along with several of our Board members, as well as our Student Representative. We will gather as much information as possible and share it with you after reviewing at our next Board meeting on September 11, 2015 at Fairfield University.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to talk to all of us on the Board and who contributed to the rich discussions and provided feedback. Thank you for taking the time to vote on this important topic.

Warm regards for a happy fall, and I will be in touch soon.

Heather Ehinger
President, CTAMFT

Heather Ehinger

URGENT: Read before you vote. CT leaders input re: National Vote

Dear Colleagues,

Regarding the AAMFT by-law vote taking place this summer through August 15:

Many of you have asked us our opinions regarding the proposed AAMFT by-law changes. Our division charter limits us as Connecticut Board members to follow AAMFT direction regarding voicing opinions about AAMFT matters. Therefore, we will share how either vote will be likely to play out in Connecticut:

A “yes” vote would eliminate the Connecticut division by ending mandatory dues payments and division leadership, with a transition starting in January 2016. This will mean all leadership authority and fiscal decision-making will be centralized with the national organization with a focus on forming special interest groups.

In the event that CT MFTs choose not to fund local services in any respect, lobbying, employment advocacy, local conferences/CEUs and statewide student/new grad mentoring in Connecticut would end.

We are optimistic, however, that local adaptations are possible, and will consider forming an organization independent from AAMFT to close any gaps in services.

A “no” vote would maintain mandatory local dues payments and fund the services that are currently in place in Connecticut until a new plan is accepted. If a plan for restructuring is re-drawn, we would advocate that it include specifics for all regions that AAMFT serves, regarding ways to:

  • maximize strengths to promote the MFT profession locally
  • include regional leadership roles and information gathering
  • address weaknesses and threats to the MFT profession
  • incorporate fiscal plans for specific regional and lobbying initiatives
  • incorporate service region culture and demographics
  • incorporate future service trends in the MFT profession

We strongly encourage you to check for your AAMFT ballot and control number, emailed May 29, or vote via paper ballot before the vote ends August 15.

We fully support your vote based on your own interpretation of the abundant information shared. For more information, feel free to call work numbers for Heather 203-438-3139 and Denise, at 860-486-2396.

Denise Parent, LMFT                            Heather Ehinger, LMFT, EdD
Rosemarie Coratola, Psy.D., LMFT      Jeffrey Schutz, LMFT, BCN, ORD
Normajean Cefarelli, LMFT                   Wendy Haggerty, LMFT
MaryAnn LaBella, M.A., LMFT              Nicole O’Brien, M.A., Ph.D.
Christine Senu, MFT student

National Conference Update, 2014

Heather MacLetchie Ehinger, President-Elect

Heather Ehinger and Patrick Kennedy

Heather Ehinger (r) pictured with keynote presenter, Patrick Kennedy (l), at AAMFT’s 2014 Annual Conference in Milwaukee, WI

In October, Jessica Floyd (student consultant), Michelle Triompo (student representative) and I attended the AAMFT National Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The theme of the conference was brief solution therapy. The keynote speakers focused primarily on celebrating the lives of the founding mothers and fathers of brief solution therapy, as well as the many small break-out learning opportunities.

As an important side note, Connecticut’s Student Consultant, Jessica Floyd, was presented with the AAMFT Master’s Student Minority Scholarship for 2014. Congrats to her!

As Connecticut Division Leaders, Jessica, Michelle and I attended the Division Leaders Workshop – an annual meeting of leaders from the state divisions. We had the opportunity to spend time with Victor Olsen, former President of CTAMFT and current member of AAMFT’s Board of Directors.

The leadership meeting focused on AAMFT board approval of the director’s recommendation to centralize the organization and eliminate the state divisions. This announcement of the national board approval was followed by a presentation on the recommendations by Tracy Todd (Director of AAMFT), the President Michael Chafin and President-Elect Marvarene Oliver. According to their presentation the primary reason for this proposed change is the future of AAMFT is at risk of becoming “irrelevant,” thus losing substantial membership in the future. The presentation focused on the retirement of the “baby boomers” and the rise of the “millennials.”

The proposal suggests eliminating the state chapters, infusing special interest groups and giving membership a choice. This choice would allow members to participate by joining the national organization with options to participate in the special interest groups. It was explained that regional or even state interest groups may be established. This proposal was approved in hope to increase interest by the “millennials’” need for choice, thus increase their interest in being an involved member.

Overall, during the meeting and during the entire conference, there was a climate of uncertainty and mistrust, although many of the smaller states were enthusiastic about the change due to their struggles to remain productive. During the Q&A that followed the presentation, many of the states expressed their concerns and asked questions that the Board of Directors were unable to answer. Answers to many of the questions included “we will take the vote this summer and figure out the rest later.”

Our Board of Directors in Connecticut has taken notice of this important possible change. Over the next several months, we will research, discuss and plan how to preserve the important work of the CTAMFT, including advocacy, education, communication and connection.

In February, we will be sharing our findings and thoughts. Until then, please contact me (or any board member) if you have any questions or concerns.

Letter from the President – AAMFT Restructure Report

Denise Parent, LMFT, President of CTAMFT

Denise Parent, LMFT, President of CTAMFT

by Denise Parent, LMFT, President of CTAMFT (president@ctamft.org)

Hello everybody, welcome back, after one of the most gorgeous summers I can remember!

Both AAMFT and CTAMFT have been busy! Stay tuned for our September E-News, which is coming out shortly. In the meantime, we feel it’s important to discuss the many changes underway at AAMFT, which will certainly impact us on a local/CT division level. I encourage you to please read this closely and share your thoughts with us, as well as AAMFT.

It is our understanding that next month, AAMFT’s restructuring task force (or DASC), is likely to recommend that AAMFT move toward centralizing services at AAMFT in order to create a more uniform MFT “brand.” We believe that AAMFT is heading toward creating a structure similar to the American Counseling Association (ACA) in which members will be invited to join the national organization and optional practice specialty groups – eliminating geographic divisions like CTAMFT.

AAMFT’s rationale is that in order to adapt to changing membership demographics, service inequities from state-to-state, and to address the needs of the future – structural change is necessary. Any changes will likely take four to six years to realize, and will depend on an AAMFT Board vote this October, followed up by a full membership vote in order to change the AAMFT bylaws.

The logistical process of any change has not yet been discussed. These decisions will create the organization that represents our profession in the coming years. The CTAMFT Board and the five MFT academic programs in Connecticut feel strongly that no matter what structure is decided upon, there needs to be a strong association presence locally for employment advocacy/legislation, as well as support for students, new professionals and clinical members as they navigate their careers.

On behalf of CTAMFT, I strongly encourage you to share your thoughts with the AAMFT task force (DASC) via their Community Forum.

Furthermore, we’d like you to share your opinions with us at CTAMFT. Please link here (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8FTCBTT) for a short (we promise!) survey. The intent is to learn from you the local services you count on and value as members of CTAMFT. Your opinion counts and we’re hopeful you will take a few minutes to respond.

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us at CTAMFT. I can be reached at president@ctamft.org.

Be Informed – Get Involved

Dear CTAMFT Members,

AAMFT has asked the membership for feedback concerning the revision to our Code of Ethics. The revisions were assessed as to both the scope of change and the content of the changes. The approved draft of the revised Code of Ethics has generated a reaction piece from seven former Presidents of AAMFT who expressed concerns of replacing “Marriage and Family Therapists” with “AAMFT Members”.

As this is an issue of importance, we wanted to open a more “local” conversation about our professional ethics code with our Connecticut membership to discover what the consensus is regarding the proposed Code revisions.

Below is the response of former Presidents for your review and we encourage you to share your thoughts on via our Facebook page or Blog.

Also, we encourage you to respond directly by January 31, 2012 on the national level to AAMFT’s request for feedback to the proposed revised Code of Ethics. We have provided a draft of the proposed changes to the Code of Ethics in the Members Only section under “AAMFT Code of Ethics” on ctamft.org.

Best regards,


Subject: In Protest of the Proposed AAMFT Ethics Code Revisions
Dear Division Presidents, Program Directors, and Officers of the Canadian Registry

The letter below is sent on behalf of seven former AAMFT Presidents to express their deepest concern regarding the proposed changes to the AAMFT Code of Ethics. We would appreciate your sharing it with all AAMFT members in your division, your students, colleagues, and all who care about Marriage and Family Therapy.

In Protest of the Proposed AAMFT Ethics Code Revisions

Dear MFT Family,

We are writing today with a grave concern for the profession of Marriage and Family Therapy that each of us values and has dedicated much or all of our careers to. If you have not seen the proposed revisions to the current AAMFT Ethics Code (Ethics Code), please do so immediately. Amazingly, the Ethics Code Task Force has totally excised the term “Marriage and Family Therapist” from the proposed Code of Ethics. This was done on the dubious grounds that the new AAMFT membership categories mean that not all our members are entitled to call themselves “Marriage and Family Therapists,” and therefore keeping the term “marriage and family therapist” in the Code means the Code would not apply to all our members. Here is an excerpt from the proposed revisions to the first three principles:

1. Responsibility to Clients

Marriage and family therapists AAMFT members advance the welfare of families and individuals. They respect the rights of those persons seeking their assistance, and make reasonable efforts to ensure that their services are used appropriately.

1.1Non-Discrimination. Marriage and family therapists Members provide professional assistance to persons without discrimination on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, national origin, orsexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.

1.2 Informed Consent. Marriage and family therapists Members obtain appropriate informed consent to therapy or related procedures and use language that is reasonably understandable to clients.

But an ethical code is never meant to be directed at a single professional organization, but at the professional field as a whole.  Not one professional organization we have looked at, including the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Nursing Association, and even the Association of Professional Wildlife Biologists directs its ethical code only at its organization’s members.   All direct their strictures at their entire field.

Thus the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct state “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.”   The AMA Code states “A physician shall be dedicated to providing competent medical care, with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights.”   The ACA Code states “Counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the interest and welfare of clients and promote formation of healthy relationships.”   The Ethical Code for Nurses states “The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.”  The NASW Ethical Code states “Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.” The APA Code states, “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm.”

By doing away with the term “Marriage and Family Therapist” in the Code, the task force has in essence done away with any ethical code for our field.  Should the proposed code go into effect and a member of the public ask, “what is the ethical code for marriage and family therapists?” The only truthful answer would have to be “there is a code for AAMFT members but not for marriage and family therapy.”  This must not happen.

Licensing boards, courts, third party and practitioner liability insurers, employers, the developers of the MFT National Examination, and others that heretofore have adopted the AAMFT Ethics Code as the standard of ethical practice for licensed marriage and family therapists will be utterly unable to use the proposed standards, since they never mention marriage and family therapists.  The proposed standards thus do severe damage to one of the longstanding goals of AAMFT: to increase professional recognition of and respect for our field.  And they directly undermine licensure, reimbursement, liability protection, and new practitioner evaluation, which are all dependent on a profession-wide code of ethics.

The terrible irony is that a professional organization such as our own has an ethical duty to create an ethics code for the entire profession – not simply for its own members. The ultimate purpose of a code, after all, is to protect the public from unethical practice in the profession as a whole. No other entity is capable of fulfilling this obligation.

The National Association of Social Workers’ Code makes this obligation of a professional association explicit in its preamble:

Professional ethics are at the core of social work. The profession has an obligation to articulate its basic values, ethical principles, and ethical standards. The NASW Code of Ethics sets forth these values, principles, and standards to guide social workers’ conduct.The Code is relevant to all social workers and social work students, regardless of their professional functions, the settings in which they work, or the populations they serve. (our emphasis)

The American Medical Association has a similar statement in its code’s preamble:

The medical profession has long subscribed to a body of ethical statements developed primarily for the benefit of the patient. As a member of this profession, a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost, as well as to society, to other health professionals, and to self.  The following Principles adopted by the American Medical Association are not laws, but standards of conduct which define the essentials of honorable behavior for the physician. (our emphasis)

Yet the proposed revisions to the AAMFT Code strip away the idea that our profession even is marriage and family therapy, as if all we do is some ill-defined mental health activity and not what the U.S. Public Health Service designated many years ago as one of only five “Core Mental Health Disciplines,” and Newsweek recently labeled one of the “Top 50 Occupations of the Decade.”  Here is an excerpt from the new version of our Preamble:

Both law and ethics govern the practice of professionals. Wmarriage and family therapy.

Are we afraid to even name our own field?

Each of us whose name appears below remembers a time when all of us fought for the right to call Marriage and Family Therapy a licensable field, and to place that title after our names. We appeared before state or provincial legislators who routinely asked if what we did was really a profession — did it have a scholarly literature? Did it have standards for training?  Did it have, they all asked, a code of ethics?  If all we had been able to say was that AAMFT had one, but not the field, we would not have anything like 50 states, the District, and two provinces licensed today.

The proposed changes represent a threat to the core of marriage and family therapy, to our right to practice with our clients, to train and supervise our students, to conduct research with members of the public, and to be a recognized and valued mental health discipline. They threaten the right of the public to be protected from unethical practice by any marriage and family therapist. There can be no compromise on this issue.

AAMFT must either speak for our profession as a whole or our profession will die. We urge every AAMFT member, every person who cares about our practice, everyone who cares about the welfare of our clients, and everyone who calls her or himself a marriage and family therapist to contact the AAMFT Board of Directors immediately and protest these changes (coderevisions@aamft.org). Demand that our organization speak clearly and firmly on what ethical practice means in our profession. Demand that AAMFT speak once again not for ourselves, but for our field.


William C. Nichols,  AAMFT President, 1981-1982
Thomas E. Clark, AAMFT President, 1983-1984
Anna Beth Benningfield, AAMFT President, 1993-1994, 1999-2000
Marcia Lasswell, AAMFT President, 1995-1996
James Morris, AAMFT President, 2001-2002
Scott Johnson, AAMFT President, 2007-2008
Linda Schwallie, AAMFT President, 2009-2010

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